Canadian Railroad Trilogy

Overview


This lavishly illustrated book brings Gordon Lightfoot’s heart-stirring song to readers young and old. Commissioned by the CBC in 1967 to mark Canada’s centennial year it eloquently describes the construction of the transcontinental railway — “an iron road runnin’ from the sea to the sea” — a great feat of nation building that changed Canada forever. Award-winning illustrator Ian Wallace brings the song to visual life with his sweeping landscapes and evocative portrayals of the people who lived the building of ...
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Overview


This lavishly illustrated book brings Gordon Lightfoot’s heart-stirring song to readers young and old. Commissioned by the CBC in 1967 to mark Canada’s centennial year it eloquently describes the construction of the transcontinental railway — “an iron road runnin’ from the sea to the sea” — a great feat of nation building that changed Canada forever. Award-winning illustrator Ian Wallace brings the song to visual life with his sweeping landscapes and evocative portrayals of the people who lived the building of the railroad. The book includes Gordon Lightfoot’s music and lyrics, a brief history of the railroad and notes on the illustrations.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Wallace's (The Sleeping Porch) sprawling, dreamlike paintings pay homage to the Canadian landscape; they accompany the lyrics of Lightfoot's 1967 song, which run along beneath the spreads. Mountains, forests, coastline, and plains roll past as on a railway journey--miles of lonely wilderness the Canadian Pacific Railway was built to span. There are dark moments, too, portraits of the First Nations peoples whose land the onrushing railroad violated, and of the poorly paid and shamefully treated Chinese workers who built its westernmost end. Although some paintings show the railway in detail, it's less a book about railroads than it is about the history and settlement of Canada itself. Lightfoot's lyric is a hymn to ambition: "Oh the song of the future has been sung,/ All the battles have been won,/ On the mountain tops we stand,/ All the world at our command." But despite such sentiments, Wallace doesn't avoid showing the realities of the railway workers' lives; they can be seen drinking and carousing as well as swinging hammers. It's a huge and unusual project, and Wallace has executed it with admirable care. Ages 4–up. (Nov.)
Children's Literature - Sheilah Egan
The striking cover art depicts a steam engine entering a tunnel—inviting the reader to enter the story of the train's journey. Gordon Lightfoot is Canada's most famous folk singer, songwriter and guitarist. His songs often tell of epic events in history ("The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald") and reveal details of the lives of the common people involved in the various episodes. Here Wallace has given visual context to Lightfoot's song about the building of the trans-Canadian railroad, which joined British Columbia with the eastern part of the country. The magnitude of the story is reflected in the sweepingly powerful illustrations created in chalk pastels that support and extend the lyrics. Wallace devoted himself to extensive research before he began to blend the bold strokes of color he used to recreate the efforts of the "navvies" (workers) who toiled, suffered exposure to the elements, and died to build the railroad that would change the lives of many, many people, especially those of Canada's First Nations. In the back matter, Wallace includes the score and lyrics of the original music, as well as giving background history of many of the images, arranged beside thumbnails of individual illustrations. Readers will want to turn back to the entire image to focus on the specifics of the details he describes with great respect and compassion for the subjects depicted there. The thoughtful consideration he gives to every aspect of each illustration is nothing short of genius. One scene, with a single buffalo observing an oncoming steam engine, gives the reader a very real sense of the changes the railroad would inflict on the landscape—the observant eye will see a map of Canada from "sea to sea" in the cloud of smoke pouring out of the smokestack. The heft of the book itself and the care given to this title's design production speaks to the scope of the text and illustrations—an amazing introduction to an important part of Canadian history. "A brief history" of the Canadian Pacific Railroad is included with several suggestions for "further reading." This is definitely a first purchase. Reviewer: Sheilah Egan
Kirkus Reviews

Sir John A. Macdonald once envisioned what Gordon Lightfoot called "an iron road runnin' from the sea to the sea"—the Canadian Pacific Railway, begun in 1885. In this dramatic, oversized tribute to the construction of that mighty railroad, both the lyrics of Lightfoot's song "Canadian Railroad Trilogy" (1967) and Wallace's dazzling chalk pastels powerfully illustrate the manifestation of that ambitious dream, emphasizing the ethnically diverse people who made it possible and those whose lives were forever changed by it: "We are the navvies who work upon the railway, / Swingin' our hammers in the bright blazin' sun. / Layin' down track and buildin' the bridges, / Bendin' our backs 'til the railroad is done." The atmospheric illustrations—each explained in wonderfully detailed endnotes—capture not only the workers' toil but also the splendor of the Canadian landscape and, obliquely, the price the displaced First Nations people paid for steam-train technology. (music and lyrics, illustrator's notes, a brief history of the Canadian Pacific Railway, further reading) (Picture book. 4-8)

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780888999535
  • Publisher: Groundwood Books
  • Publication date: 12/1/2010
  • Pages: 56
  • Sales rank: 1,013,685
  • Age range: 4 years
  • Product dimensions: 9.50 (w) x 12.40 (h) x 0.80 (d)

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